Building the Brand Experience Inside and Out at Salesforce

john zissimos on brand

“You have to build marketing inside out today. It has to come from inside the company.” It’s this kind of hard work that drives John Zissimos, Chief Creative Officer for software giant Salesforce. His work includes growing a coherent brand and bringing a promise to life across a variety of channels online and off. We discussed all of this and more on this week’s episode of the On Brand podcast.

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About John Zissimos

John Zissimos is the Chief Creative Officer at Salesforce. As CCO, John is responsible for building the Salesforce brand and crafting the company’s story around the world. He leads the creative organization across digital, strategy, interactive design, films, events, customer stories, and UX. Over the past 6 years, John has inspired a design-led culture and built a full-service, creative agency within Salesforce to inspire, innovate, and tell the story of the fastest-growing software company in the world.

Prior to joining Salesforce in 2010, John spent over two decades as an advertising creative executive, film director, and photographer. John began his career in marketing at Chiat/Day and has held top creative leadership positions at McCann Erickson and J. Walter Thompson.

John holds a Bachelor of Arts in Radio, Television, and Film from Temple University. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife, Pam, and daughters Alexandra, Ellie, and Katie.

Episode Highlights

How has the Salesforce brand evolved since John has been there? “It wasn’t always this big! But really — a brand is a promise. Usually in three dimensions. It’s about the products, the people, and the vision of the future set by the CEO. Our promise is of a deeper relationship with your customers and data to grow your business. That’s why we’re completely focused on customer success — connecting customers with their information.”

Telling life-changing stories. “We have a product that has changed people’s lives. These stories were all over the place but they were trapped in the building, at events, with evangelists.” Eventually, Zissimos sold the storytelling concept through video to Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and the rest is history (and a fun story that you’ll have to listen to).

“We’re all story-tellers,” Zissimos shared. “Everything you deliver to your customer has have story elements — empathy, conflict, authenticity. Millennials attach themselves to brands that stand for something — that are about sustainability and community.”

Where do you start with brand experience? “You have to ask yourself these questions — where are you? Ask both your best customers and the ones who have left you. You also have to ask — Why are you here? Is it just to make a profit? Or is it about something bigger? Dreamforce (Salesforce’s annual user conference) is a great example of listening to the community because we’re doing something bigger together. There’s tons of volunteering that goes along with the event that week.”

Unifying the brand. “Plugging into the mother brand is the best way to grow. Early on there were a lot of groups and it was more silo-ish. We had to tie it together through processes and systems. I have a 24-hour plan and a five-year plan. I always wanted to bring everything together but never in a way that stifled innovation.”

“Insight is key. It’s a hard step and a lot of people are skipping it. I have to explain, I have to intellectualize about the why. Why is this on brand? Why is this better? It’s subjective. If you want the most power, be the one to write the brief. Then let it go. Let the team take over.”

What brand has made John smile recently?Social Print — you can build a framed photo from your Instagram feed. But they do something great with what they actually send you.” As an avid Instagram user, I’ll have to check this out.

To learn more, go to For more information on John or his work, please visit and follow John on Twitter.

As We Wrap …

Before we go, I want to flip the microphone around to our community …
This week I want to give a shout out to my close friend at Salesforce, Admin Evangelist and host of the ButtonClick Admin podcast Mike Gerholdt.

Did you hear something you liked on this episode or another? Do you have a question you’d like our guests to answer? Let me know on Twitter using the hashtag #OnBrandPodcast and you may just hear your thoughts here on the show.

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